About half-past nine Jacob left the house, his door slamming, other doors slamming,
buying his paper, mounting his omnibus, or, weather permitting, walking his road as
other people do. Head bent down, a desk, a telephone, books bound in green leather,
electric light.... "Fresh coals, sir?" ... "Your tea, sir."... Talk about football, the Hotspurs,
the Harlequins; six-thirty Star brought in by the office boy; the rooks of Gray's Inn
passing overhead; branches in the fog thin and brittle; and through the roar of traffic
now and again a voice shouting: "Verdict--verdict--winner--winner," while letters
accumulate in a basket, Jacob signs them, and each evening finds him, as he takes his
coat down, with some muscle of the brain new stretched.
Then, sometimes a game of chess; or pictures in Bond Street, or a long way home to
take the air with Bonamy on his arm, meditatively marching, head thrown back, the
world a spectacle, the early moon above the steeples coming in for praise, the sea-gulls
flying high, Nelson on his column surveying the horizon, and the world our ship.
Meanwhile, poor Betty Flanders's letter, having caught the second post, lay on the hall
table--poor Betty Flanders writing her son's name, Jacob Alan Flanders, Esq., as
mothers do, and the ink pale, profuse, suggesting how mothers down at Scarborough
scribble over the fire with their feet on the fender, when tea's cleared away, and can
never, never say, whatever it may be--probably this--Don't go with bad women, do be a
good boy; wear your thick shirts; and come back, come back, come back to me.
But she said nothing of the kind. "Do you remember old Miss Wargrave, who used to be
so kind when you had the whooping-cough?" she wrote; "she's dead at last, poor thing.
They would like it if you wrote. Ellen came over and we spent a nice day shopping. Old
Mouse gets very stiff, and we have to walk him up the smallest hill. Rebecca, at last,
after I don't know how long, went into Mr. Adamson's. Three teeth, he says, must come
out. Such mild weather for the time of year, the little buds actually on the pear trees.
And Mrs. Jarvis tells me--"Mrs. Flanders liked Mrs. Jarvis, always said of her that she
was too good for such a quiet place, and, though she never listened to her discontent
and told her at the end of it (looking up, sucking her thread, or taking off her spectacles)
that a little peat wrapped round the iris roots keeps them from the frost, and Parrot's
great white sale is Tuesday next, "do remember,"--Mrs. Flanders knew precisely how
Mrs. Jarvis felt; and how interesting her letters were, about Mrs. Jarvis, could one read
them year in, year out--the unpublished works of women, written by the fireside in pale
profusion, dried by the flame, for the blotting-paper's worn to holes and the nib cleft and
clotted. Then Captain Barfoot. Him she called "the Captain," spoke of frankly, yet never
without reserve. The Captain was enquiring for her about Garfit's acre; advised
chickens; could promise profit; or had the sciatica; or Mrs. Barfoot had been indoors for
weeks; or the Captain says things look bad, politics that is, for as Jacob knew, the
Captain would sometimes talk, as the evening waned, about Ireland or India; and then
Mrs. Flanders would fall musing about Morty, her brother, lost all these years--had the